Above all . . .

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15

How good are you at resting? God is very big on rest and actually designed our weeks to have one whole day in which we are told to rest – to stop what we do on other days and do something that is refreshing and restorative.

After God had given the commandments to Moses, he emphasized one of them: Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you'” (from Exodus 31:13). Above all? Does God really mean that? Why, I wonder?

I think it’s so we learn to trust him. Trust him with the work we didn’t get done, with the plans that need to be made, and the relationships that need to be fixed. Trust him with the anxieties we carry all week. One day a week, we rest in his love and grace and his work on our behalf.

And that includes spiritual striving. God does the work of making us holy – setting us apart for him. We can try harder, working our hearts out to please him, but if he’s not in it, all our efforts are fruitless. Sometimes he just wants us to sit still in his presence and let him work his transformation in our lives. It is in that rest, perhaps, that we learn to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Maybe restful living is mostly about letting go.

“Unhurried does not describe how I spend hours or minutes. It describes a state of heart. Unhurried comes not from forced breaks, but from chosen stillness.” – David Timms

#sabbathrest

It’s about time.

“Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!” – Psalm 90:12 (MSG)

Most of us don’t wear watches anymore, but not because we’re not concerned about the time. Our phones handle time management for us with a ding 30-minutes before our next appointment and a beep every time we get a new text or email. Who needs a watch when we have a device constantly calling us to pay attention?

There are two Greek words for time. The first is chronos and refers to what we might call “clock time”. Chronos keeps us on the go, always preparing for the next thing, always feeling hurried. That’s the kind of time our beeping phones can help us handle.

Then there is kairos. Kairos refers to a period of time, a season, an era. Kairos asks us to resist responding only to the urgency of chronos and invites us to openness, willingness, patience, and introspection – to an observation of growth, change, or healing. Kairos is the kind of time we need God to help us understand.

How we spend our hours and days is important, but God’s perspective is longer, more patient, more focused on end results. He calls us to peace, not anxiety. He reveals the eternal view, not the temporal. And he never seems to be rushed. That, I think, may be why he calls us to a day of rest every week. A day to re-calibrate our hurry, to trust him with what we didn’t get done, and to allow him to refresh and renew us. We can’t escape clock time, but, by his grace, we can live above it!

“The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.” – Dallas Willard

#spiritualjourney

A Handful of Quietness

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil. . .” Ecclesiastes 4:6

Busy. Sometimes that’s a too accurate picture of our lives. Even when we have opportunity to slow a bit, we choose to be busy. We can work later and make a little more money. We can buy the house that  needs help and end up working every evening to make it better. We can volunteer at too many places and be on the run serving others. The constant pressure is unsettling after awhile. That’s why the writer of Ecclesiastes says “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil. . . “ (Ecclesiastes 4:6 ESV)

So, how do we find a little bit of quietness in the middle of a busy life? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, lie still for a few minutes, thinking about being in the presence of God. Feel the love he has for you. Be amazed at his majesty.
  • Take a 10-minute walk alone at lunchtime, paying particular attention to the wonders of creation around you. There is a double blessing in experiencing your quietness in the sunshine!
  • If you have a few minutes between appointments, sit in stillness, silently saying “thank you” to God for something specific. You’ll find that you  can create an internal quietness in spite of activity around you.

God’s plan is not for us just to be busy, but to have an abundant life – including a centered peace. A handful of quietness in our day today might move us toward that goal!

“It is precisely when life is at its most frantic, most frightening, that we each need a place to go to, a place that wraps us around in silence and calm.” – Joan Chittister

 

#contemplation

Did I make the right decision?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” – Psalm 32:8

Even when I pray over a decision and think I’m hearing God’s direction, I second guess myself. Do you do that, too? I want to do what he wants, but sometimes it’s hard to sort out his will from my own.

So, today, I went back to God questioning a decision I had made. “I was really trying to do what you want, Lord, but now I’m not sure I did the right thing. Did I mess it up by going down a path that might have been more mine than yours?”

What came back was a reassuring message. It was something like this:

“You did what you did because you thought it was what I wanted you to do. That’s what really counts – your attitude of wanting to please me. Not all of your decisions will be right, but I look at your heart. And, remember, I can work with every choice you make. My will will be done in your life, not because your decisions are right, but because your heart is right.”

He works with my decisions! If my attitude is right, he will intervene and overrule my bad choices and turn it all around for his glory and my good. I like that! Then I remembered David. God saw him as a man after his own heart even though David made some bad decisions. God is loving and forgiving toward all of us who truly want to do what he wants. That sure makes me breathe easier! You, too?

“We count on God’s mercy for our past mistakes, on God’s love for our present needs, on God’s sovereignty for our future.” – Augustine 

 

#decisions

What was Jesus really like?

 

“Whoever claims to live in him (God) must live as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:6

Many books have been written about Jesus, speculating on what he was really like. My favorite authors on this subject are those who walked with him on dusty pathways, ate meals with him, watched his dealings with all kinds of people, and listened to him teach. These gospel writers tell us that Jesus was . . .

• forgiving to those who acknowledged their weaknesses or sins.
• gentle with children.
• confrontational and sometimes angry with those who thought they knew it all and were, in their leadership, misleading others.
• compassionate toward crowds who looked to him for spiritual insight.
• merciful to the sick and disabled who came for healing.
• a teacher with authority.
• in constant contact with his Father, committed to fulfilling God’s will in this world.
• not, seemingly, in a hurry or anxious or worried.

And perhaps most importantly, he lived on this earth, but had an other-worldliness about him that created a hunger for the spiritual in those who came to know him best.

As we think about Jesus, don’t we sense a longing to be as wise, confident, productive, and peaceful as he was? How do we do that? Through developing intimacy with him – just as his 1st century followers did. We, too, can walk with him on the road, welcome him at our meals, and learn from what he taught. He invites us into an on-going, ever-deepening relationship with him and the Father. When we accept that invitation, we find the characteristics we see in Jesus will begin to appear in us, too. Isn’t that what we really want?

“Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.”

Thomas O. Chisholm

 

#Jesus

When God Roars

“They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars,his children will come trembling from the west.” – Hosea 11:10

Have you ever lost track of one of your children in a crowd? What do you do when that happens? You shout out the child’s name. You call out loudly, wanting him to hear your voice and come back to you.

Do you know God does that, too?

The prophets tell us that sometimes the great Lion of Judah roars to warn of coming judgment. But Hosea gives us a different view. He tells us that sometimes God roars when his children get too far away from him. He roars to let us know where he is so we can come back to his side. Hosea tells the people of Israel that when they decide to turn back to God, he will roar like a lion. Not at them, but for them. He will make himself clearly known so they can find their way from wherever they are. God’s roar is a call to come home. He makes it easy for us to find him!

I thought about that image and realized that, if I like the quiet voice of the shepherd more than the roaring voice of the lion, I need to stay near him. When he stops, I stop. When he moves, I move, always staying close enough so he can whisper in my ear. Never wandering away so he has to raise his voice to bring me back. Close is where he can sing to me. There I am safe, loved, caressed, and taught. Close is where I want to be!

“I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.” – Mary Gardiner Brainerd

 

 

#walkingwithgod

Unfinished

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Mark 6:31b

Have you set goals for 2018? Many of us have. We want to set our sights on what we can accomplish before another new year dawns. All the self-help books tell us to set goals that will challenge us – “dream big”, they say.  I think it’s good to keep reaching, to want to achieve, but most of us will get to the end of 2018 with some goals that are unfinished, unreached. What do we do with that?

Maybe we need a little balance: Striving and achieving, yes. But, maybe more importantly, being and becoming. Here’s why: Some year, we’ll set our goals for the last time and we don’t know when that will be. So wisdom tells me that part of our planning this year should include becoming. Becoming more peaceful and less anxious, more loving and more generous, quieter and wiser, becoming more like Jesus. There will always be goals and plans that are unfinished! If we wait to get them all done before we focus on our personal and spiritual growth, we will never give ourselves permission or opportunity to become.

Let’s  go for it with goals for 2018. We can work hard, achieve, and glorify God in the process. But, at some time each day and for longer times on non-work days, let’s stop doing to spend time with God: talking to him, walking with him, reading his book, singing him songs, listening for his voice. These will open the door to becoming who God created us to be. Then we’ll know that it may be OK if lesser goals remain unfinished.

“To fail to see the value of simply being with God and ‘doing nothing’ is to miss the heart of Christianity.” – Peter Scazzero